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Gen Z’s Green Shift: The Rise of Sustainable Shopping & an Eco-Friendly Revolution

Gen Z is truly making its mark on the marketplace with a vibrant blend of innovation and influence. As they tap into their purchasing power, they’re reshaping traditional retail landscapes. They’re at the forefront, championing an era where mindful consumption is not just a fleeting trend but has become the standard. Now, we’re seeing sustainability embedded in the very fabric of their shopping habits, and the impact its having is hard to ignore.

The Green-Minded Generation

It’s nothing short of a revolution (an eco-friendly revolution if you will) championed by Gen Z. With an estimated $143 billion in buying power, this eco-conscious generation is reshaping consumerism by placing sustainability at its heart.

Shared Economy: Rather than owning, Gen Z is veering towards sharing, leasing, or renting services and products, positively impacting the environment. In fact, according to a recent Drapers report, Gen Z shoppers (32%) are more likely to rent fashion items than their millennial counterparts (26%).

Supporting Ethical Brands: This generation prioritises spending on brands that are transparent, ethically sourced, and committed to reducing environmental impact. According to Statista, over 60% of Gen Z consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products, from brands who are leading with sustainable practices.

Reducing Consumption: Gen Z shoppers are super mindful of their consumption and actively try to reduce unnecessary purchases, helping to decrease consumer waste.

Resale and upcycling: Gen Z is encouraging the second-hand market and upcycling trends, particularly through TikTok content where they show step-by-step videos breathing new life into old items through dyeing, cropping or completely working garments, and shopping hauls of their latest charity shop and Vinted purchases.

It’s no surprise that Gen Z’s influence has imposed a sustainability-check on companies. Businesses, irrespective of their size, are reviewing their strategies around waste management, energy efficiency, and carbon footprint, to name a few.

In 2023, Drapers reported that 45% of Gen Z and millennial consumers admitted to abandoning or deciding against a fashion purchase because the brand or retailer did not reflect their values, a 5% increase compared to 2022.

Gen Z’s Impact on Sustainable Retail

Retailers aren’t just adapting to sustainable practices to win over younger audiences. They’re actually aligning with a powerful wave of customer demand where people are looking to balance their shopping with a strong commitment to the environment. It’s not just about making sales; it’s about meeting a rising call for responsibility towards our planet.

However, winning Gen Z’s loyalty with sustainability doesn’t mean competing with their love for fast-fashion retailers like Shein, or mass retailers such as Amazon. The balance lies in addressing their environmental concern while still catering to their shopping interests.

One significant challenge confronting Gen Z is the soaring cost of living, which inevitably puts a strain on their wallets, especially when trying to shop sustainably. This is where businesses can step in and make a real difference.

By focusing on affordability, companies have a chance to bridge the gap, offering sustainable choices that don’t break the bank and align with Gen Z’s financial realities.

A promising shift is the fast-growing trend of shopping second-hand, with the rise of platforms like Depop and Vinted, as well as retailers like Zara, who recently launched their own platform encouraging customers to sell their preloved Zara items with other shoppers.

Drapers reported that 68% of Gen Z and millennial shoppers have purchased pre-loved or second-hand fashion items — a much higher percentage compared to older generations.

What Does This Mean for Retailers?

As Gen Z’s passion for sustainability continues to transform the way we all think about buying, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to keep pace. But it’s not just a matter of cranking up the ‘eco-friendly’ image—it’s about a deeper change. Startup brands and retail giants alike need to rethink their approach, from making eco-friendly options more wallet-friendly to endorsing the reuse and repair of their products.

In the end, what Gen Z is showing us is that caring for the planet through our shopping choices isn’t just a phase—it’s a lasting change that’s reshaping our buying habits for the better.

Retailers who get on board with this aren't just winning over Gen Z's hearts; they're also helping to kick-start a new era where shopping with a conscience is the norm, not the exception.

What are brands currently doing?

A brand that is taking big steps towards recycling and sustainability is Selfridges. Their goal is that 45% of transactions will come from circular products and services by 2030 through Reselfridges, its Resale, Rental, Repair, Refill and Recycle ecosystem

A great example is their 2023 pop up called The Stock Market. They transformed the Corner Shop at Selfridges into a month-long circular experience. Here customers could uncover the value of what they already owned, exchange items for Selfridges credit or even fix handbags at The Handbag Clinic. The experience had a great response, and supported Selfridges goal to make recycling and sustainability accessible for their customers.

Another great example is Pangaia. The young brand has sustainability at the forefront of everything they do. From innovative materials like FLWRDWN™, a flower-powered alternative to goose and duck down, to their re-selling platform Pangaia ReWear, a peer-to-peer re-sell platform. Creating digital infrastructure for customers to re-sell and make it seamless, while removing the barriers to entry this world of re-selling.

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